September 4, 2009

siccing: it's not just for dogs, anymore

Siccing isn't just something you can do with your dog.

The word "sic" is Latin for "thus" and is used in English, usually italicized and in square brackets, or, sometimes, parentheses, to indicated a misspelling, mistake, or archaic usage in a quoted text. As in (to use an example from Wikipedia) "The House of Representatives shall chuse [sic] their Speaker ..." (from the U.S. Constitution).

The surname "Smith" is one of the more popular surnames in the English-speaking world. Turns out that a statistician named Robert J. Smith got tired of being confused with other Robert Smiths and so changed his name to Robert J. Smith?. Yes, the question mark is legally part of his name, at least in Australia, according to his webpage.

Prof. Smith?'s recent paper on the epidemiology of Zombies (yes, the flesh-eating un-dead) has received some press attention lately, including in last week's issue of Science magazine, wherein Prof. Smith is referred to as "epidemiologist Robert Smith? (sic)".

So now you know: You can sic not just dogs, but statisticians.

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